"Because Then You Will Find the Culprits"
Inside Job ....the Movie

Why do Bad Things Happen? Revisted

We have some characters in the faith. You know who I mean. Bigger than life guys. Everyone likes them, but there's not much finery about them, not much decorum. Was Mickey Spillane one of that group? They tend to be old-timers, younger ones having had the outrageousness refined out of them.

So here is Herman, for example, giving a talk and he's making the point that people aren't perfect; even in Bethel they have their quirks, and to illustrate, he quotes some Bethelite he knew.....I forget which one....who when he was provoked, would use the word “damn.” “I don't give a damn!” Herman quotes him, drawing the words out.

Now, you know how when someone says something out of place there will be some nervous tittering in the audience? Well, there is, and Herman takes that as appreciation! So he repackages the line and runs it through again! “I don't give a damn!” He even did it a third time. “I don't give a damn!” Didn't they install a trap door in the platform next day?

My point, though, is not that repackaging should never be done, but that sometimes it should. And that's what I'm going to do now with a post I wrote about five years ago entitled “Why do Bad Things Happen?” It's buried way back there in the archives....who's going to come across it now? Yet it's among the experiences that got me blogging in the first place. The story it tells really took place, and with only minor modifications, it's an email I sent to a work colleague I was witnessing to from afar. A little light in tone, the way I like to write. So now I've dressed it up a bit, applied lipstick, and am running it through again, just like Herman!

A caution, however. It will only appeal to persons willing to explore what the Bible says on serious matters. You cannot be too firmly afflicted with "we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. Who's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?" syndrome. Any discussion on why there is suffering must necessarily touch upon Adam and Eve. You just can't get around it. If you could, I would. It doesn't exactly square with what the scientists say, does it, yet the two stands do nudge closer together over time.

Moristotle, who is atheist, was firmly in the grip of the above syndrome, and he couldn't stand the post. He almost threw up. He declared it a "fantasy," aspects of which were "utterly repulsive," and the rest "not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile." Of course, I took his concerns to heart, and wrote a revised post just for him entitled “Why Do Bad Things Happen? Updated for Atheists (Sort Of)” It's just how Paul might have written, I imagine, if he'd been faced with the same audience, in the spirit of “to the atheists I became an atheist.”  (1 Cor 9:19-22)


Oh how I miss Moristotle! What glorious, spectacular rows we used to have! What creative posts came of it, both on his blog and mine! Moristotle was well-read. And thoughtful. And he had many interests in life. Atheist though he was, he didn't fly the scarlet Atheist letter A on his blog, probably because he knew Nathaniel Hawthorne wouldn't like it. These are the types of atheist you want to talk to, but alas, they don't hang around for too long. They inevitably reflect that this life is short, that it's all there is, that there's many things they yet want to do in it, and do they really want to spend those brief remaining years arguing with an intransigent “theist”? So they exit the stage, and leave only the ideological cranks in their wake, snarlpits of condescension and rudeness, who positively live to argue, who imagine they have a lock on “reason,” and who are so persistently unpleasant that it's hard to endure them for long. Moristotle, different in every respect, was my house atheist for a time, and he never even applied for the position; he just naturally assumed it with his trademark flair and wit. Though even he, if another Witness blogger would chime in on the discussion, would hand him his head on a platter. Alas, he has moved on. They all do. Only the snarlpits remain.

But we digress. Without further ado, here is that resurrected post, Why Do Bad Things Happen? (Bible reader's version):

 

Carpooling to work, Bill was pounding me into jelly with non-stop drivel about, of all things, pornography. I was not feeling well, had insufficient sleep and the beginnings of a headache. Jake was either snoozing in the back seat or wisely playing possum. I pretended to be deaf, but Bill was wise to it and kept talking! I considered piercing my eardrums so as to actually be deaf, or breathing in exhaust so as to die, but couldn't muster the nerve.

It seems there is a certain woman who has forsaken the arts, at which she was successful, to make hard-core pornography, at which she is astoundingly successful, and she has become wealthy. This has caught Bill's attention and it is the subject of the day

. ....Tom, she was a concert pianist and she was successful. Now she makes hard core porn and she is super-rich. I don't understand how she could do it. I mean, she was not just some loser, but she was a concert pianist. I just can't understand how a concert pianist could give that up and start a new living making hard core pornography. (Jake and I have no trouble understanding it) I think these people in Hollywood are so super-rich and powerful that they just laugh at all the rest of us, with our quaint and backward little bourgeois notions of morality. I mean, maybe this is just the capitalist system...maybe this is just free enterprise. Where's the harm, anyway. I mean, if it doesn't hurt anyone, what is wrong with it, anyway? Why not, if it makes people happy? But what I don't get is how she, who was a concert pianist......now, Bill is very predictable and you can fill in the rest for yourself and not be too far off

Of course, I don't want to imply that Bill is a regular consumer of hard core porn. I've no reason to believe that, and I don't believe it. Of course not! It is simply today's topic. Actually, the three of us ride together a lot, and women are a frequent topic of discussion. Not obscenely, you understand, and not specifically, but just generically, as a species. Both of these guys defer to me, since I have been married forever, so they assume I know a lot.

On the job, I resolve not to put up with the same drivel on the drive home. How much can a guy take? But once back in the car, my headache, held at bay during the workshift, returns with a vengeance, and I also begin to feel carsick. Bill, of course, never doubts that I am eagerly awaiting the next phase of his harangue, and picks up where he left off! Desperate measures are called for. 

.....Hard core porn. I mean, where's the harm in it? Isn't it just our petty ideas of morality, which the super-powerful rich people in Hollywood just laugh at? Tom, I think they just laugh at us. And where is the harm in it?......Without warning, I hit him hard with a right punch: "Bill, don't be an idiot! Of course it's harmful! It interferes with a normal relationship with a woman, because all your thoughts are debased!“ He is not fazed! He keeps coming at me!...Yeah, but...if people don't mind, I mean if they find enjoyment...how can it be harmful? What is really wrong with it? .....I land another hard right! "Damn it, Bill, we just came from the job, where about half of the folks are women. You go back and explain to them how wonderful hard core porn is...see if you can persuade them how it doesn't hurt anyone"......Yes!! If only for a moment, he is stopped. Jake, from the back seat, explodes in laughter....he is beginning to sense a good fight, and he perks up.

But Bill is far from down and out. He regroups! ......a concert pianist, who used to play the concert piano in front of a concert piano audience! What I don't understand is....

I feigt with my right, but this time I hit him hard with my left, out of nowhere and completely unexpected! ....."Bill, what really upsets me is that we should die! Why should people die after only 70 or 80 years, when there are some turtles that live 150 years. I'd like to live forever and never die. What do you think of that!!??" (Now, this has nothing to do with anything, but if we must talk, it is going to be on my subject, not porn) ....He staggers! He looks for the gutter, but he has lost the thread of conversation.......After a pause: I don't know why the hell a person would want to live forever, or even just five more minutes on this crappy earth! The way life is today it is not worth living! [He's not a joyful guy, this Bill.] Is this life just some kind of a joke that God is playing on us? I think he must be laughing at us. I mean, what's the purpose of all of this?

With the right combination of moves, I could dominate this fight. I take a gamble:.....

"Bill! I could explain it all to you, but I'm not going to because you'll interrupt!" ......Bullseye!!!  Jake splits his sides laughing. "I could explain it to you, but you'll interrupt," he mimics. Bill is speechless. He stumbles a bit, even briefly goes back to the porn star, but it is no good! The subject has been changed. By and by, he asks what is this explanation about the purpose of life.

Could it be? Is he really going to shut up? Gingerly, I lay down a foundation. "The first thing that you've got to understand is that God did not put humans on earth because he wanted them somewhere else. The earth is not a proving ground from which to launch people into heaven or hell. It was meant to be a permanent home, and people were created to live forever on it." Silence. It looks like I may really have his attention!

"Secondly, Bill, while I am explaining some things, you are going to hear things that you disagree with, but you cannot say so! For example, I will speak about Adam and Eve. You are going to want to say: "I don't believe in Adam and Eve." You cannot say it! You must wait until I am done, see if it hangs together, and then afterwards, if you still want, you can say: I don't believe in Adam and Eve." Again, not a word. It really seems like he is listening, and Jake too, for that matter.

And with that, I lay out the following scenario for them. And not just for them, but also for whoever reads this. Perhaps it will seem reasonable to you, and perhaps not. Let me know. Having prepared the earth to support physical life, God creates all life we see, including humans. As one perceptive person put it: "As almost a selfless act, to the extent of….I have life, perhaps I will create more life, so others can enjoy it as I do." In a nutshell, it could not be explained much better.

Still, happy living will depend on their recognition of their Creator's authority, his rightness, the need for obedience to him regarding questions of how to live and how to govern themselves as they grow in number. Not that God's going to control every minute aspect of their lives. Indeed, he has granted them free will. He has not programmed them as one might program robots…they can choose their course. And while that makes a wrong course possible, it also makes a right course so much more meaningful. After all, how meaningful is someone's love if you know they are programmed so they can't behave any other way?

To some extent the obedience that Adam rightly owes God parallels that of a child toward it's parents. The child for many years will encounter situations with which it is unfamiliar, that only the parents will be able to properly assess. Assuming the parent holds the child's best interests at heart, obedience is therefore a very good thing. Now, the child will one day become the equal of the parent, and the need for obedience fades. Humans will never become the equal of God, so with God the need for obedience never disappears, even though God wants us to continually gain wisdom from experience.

You may know that the Bible account, in the first three chapters of Genesis (If you haven't read the Bible, fear not. Few people have) says that God puts a tree, called the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, in the garden of Eden, and tells Adam and Eve not to eat from it. And, in no time at all, they do. Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that before eating off the tree, the first humans couldn't distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong? Plainly, that cannot be. How would they know it is right to obey the command and wrong to disobey? Nor does the fruit have anything at all to do with sex, as some have been told.

Back to the prior illustration, one might say that the child looks to the parent for standards as to what is good and what is bad. It is good to eat vegetables, to wash hands, to learn to read, to be in bed not too late. It is bad to play in the street, to eat only candy, to run with scissors, and so forth. But, if the young child were to absolutely rebel, one way to put it poetically would be to say that the child will now decide for itself what is good and bad....it will no longer look to its parents.

It is in this sense that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad serves to illustrate those first humans rejecting God's right to decide what is right and wrong, good and bad, in favor of making their own rules. By eating from the tree, they are saying that they don't need God telling them what to do, they will decide for themselves! They reject God's sovereignty, his right to rule, his right to set standards. Now, what is God going to do about it?

Of course, he can flatten them all and start over, or give up on the whole notion of creating humans. That shows who's stronger. But that matter's never been in doubt. The question that has been raised is: who is correct? God or those first people? Can they really govern themselves successfully so that neither God nor anyone else ought interfere, or is self-rule an ability they do not have? Better to settle this question and thus salvage the original project.

Essentially, God says: Alright…. I say you cannot rule yourselves. You insist you can. Try it. I will give you this much time (hold our you hands about one foot apart, a distance that can represent the time God allows) It will be all the time you will need to make good on your claim. During that time, as you increase in number, you are free to organize and govern yourselves, divide or unite yourselves any way you see fit and can manage. Accept or reject standards I offer, devise your own ways of living, your own economies, your own religions. Discover science, and see if you can harness it to improve your lot. I will not interfere. At the end of that time, we will see if you have been able to make good on your claim of independence.

Now, as the Bible presents matters, we are nearing the end of that time. We don't have a precise timetable, but we do have many indications that point to this general time period. And, not to deny that there are a few bright spots here and there...people have learned to clean up after their dogs, for instance...but I don't think anyone can point to the overall human record with pride. It's been one long chronicle of butchery and suffering, injustice and poverty, hatred and selfishness, climaxing so that today the question is seriously asked: will humans destroy themselves. We all know of people who choose not to bring children into the world, so inhospitable does it appear.

So there comes a point when God can say: Enough. Case closed. The question has been answered. He can bring about his own kingdom rule, he can remove those opposed, and he can see his original purpose toward earth come back online. All this without negating the free will he has endowed his creation with, (among the things most people cherish is freedom of choice) and without any permanent damage to those who have suffered in the past, since there is provision of resurrection.

Furthermore, the issue, once settled, becomes a standard for the future, just as a Supreme Court decision becomes a precedent. Should some future whiner make the same claim about self-rule, the experiment does not have to repeat. In time, since everlasting life is the object, the time spent in self-rule and human suffering recedes and comes to represent an insignificant amount of time, like a bad dream of long ago.

And then there is some stuff about how conditions will change under kingdom rule, and a little etc, and thus ends my speech.

Silence. It, or at least parts of it, has struck home.

But, by and by, Bill cranks up again.

Now you must understand that, physically, I feel horrible. My headache has gone migraine, and the ride has made me nauseous. When I am later dropped off at the meet spot, I don't get into my car, but instead walk a few laps around the parking lot, trying to steady myself before the drive home.

The next scene is straight from the movies! How often, after the hero has beaten the foe and has turned his back...exhausted...does that foe.....gasp! Look out!....impossibly rise up for one last blow, which will surely find its mark except for the completely unexpected intervention of some third party....say, the woman in distress, or a bad guy just turned good, or an up-to-this-time ambiguous character. And so it is that way in the car!

......What I don't understand, Bill says, is what is the purpose of all this suffering.... how can God allow all of......

Jake comes to the rescue!!! "Bill, Tom just explained all of that!! he says. Weren't you listening?" ....Bill next says something about evolution, and again it is Jake: "Wait! he says. This is something I can chime in on. I used to believe in evolution but I don't anymore...not because of religion, but because of science. Evolution doesn't make any sense because of"......and he starts into a discussion on DNA and some other science things. Thus the two of them talk for awhile, while I try to nurse my head and stomach, hoping I do not die. [I did not]

There is an epilogue. A week or two later, about ten of us were at another jobsite. From the other side of the area, I can hear Bill complaining to someone: .......What I don't understand is what is the purpose of this life. Is this some sort of joke that God is playing? Is he just laughing at us........"Bill! I interject, I explained all that to you...don't be carrying on as if you don't have a clue!" My ally, Jake, roars with laughter." He did!" Jake says. "It made sense, too! Don't worry, Tom, I believe you!"

So I'm batting 500. It could be worse.

************************

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

John Lassiter

From the amen corner: "and without any permanent damage to those who have suffered in the past, since there is provision of resurrection."

And no PTSD. (Isaiah 65:17) . . .and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.

tom sheepandgoats

Good to hear from you John, apt addition, and not a moment too soon. Jehovah only knows how many spelling and grammar errors I've made in your absence!

Adam

Any competent atheist will agree that this post contains no arguments that will sway an atheist's opinion. The fact that you're basing all your arguments on a 2000 year old book that an atheist would have already dismissed as fiction renders them moot from the start. You can't say I'm right because my holy book says so to an atheist. Also, what kind of horrible parent would allow his children to experience things like rape, torture, racism and genocide to teach them a lesson? Sounds like the 2000 year old preaching of primitive goat herders to me.

tom sheepandgoats

Well....I wouldn't word matters with the loaded language you use, but....

"what kind of horrible parent would allow his children to experience things like rape, torture, racism and genocide to teach them a lesson"

if the lesson was long-lasting enough, even permanent, and if failure to learn the lesson meant certain death, a parent might well allow negative things in the course of settling things once and for all. There are parents, after all, who will allow offspring to experience horrible suffering in the course of treatment for some otherwise deadly disease or in the aftermath of a nasty accident.

Besides, if I can't sway competent atheists, maybe I can sway some incompetent ones.

Adam

Alright, fair enough, I'll attempt to keep loaded language to a minimum but I'm by no means a writer so you'll have to forgive me. I have kids of my own and I'm more than willing to admit that some times it's best to allow children to learn from their mistakes, but I think the majority of people (christians, muslims, buddhists, you name it) won't let their children be harmed in the name of teaching a lesson, or being right. I wouldn't stand and watch my girls put their hands in a wood chipper because I got tired of telling them to stay away from it.

I think the argument for subjecting kids to painful treatments is a little off the mark. That's not a situation where you're trying to teach a lesson, you're just hoping the child can make it through the treatment so she can go on to live a wonderful, healthy, fulfilling life. A parent who exposed his child to radiation therapy to teach her not to go near the chemical dump because they might get cancer would be a little more in line with your example. But that, I think, would be widely regarded as the worst parenting ever.

I applaud your optimism on swaying incompetent atheists, but they aren't the ones you have to watch out for ;)

Also, if you feel any of my language in this comment was loaded, please point it out. I'm interested in discussion without anger, especially with those of the religious persuasion.

tom sheepandgoats

“Sounds like the 2000 year old preaching of primitive goat herders to me.” Isn't that remark “loaded?” No need to quibble over semantics here, but it seems to me you've merely thrown it in for insult. You don't believe it. Or if you do, it betrays ignorance. While you may find some goat herders among them, and while no, they did not have Ipads, Bible writers came from all levels of society. Moses, for example, was raised in privilege by a then-advanced society, the same folks that brought us pyramids. You try building one, if you think that even dumb goat herders could do the job. Besides, considering the mayhem that people inflict upon this world, bringing it to the brink of destruction on several fronts, one might well wish that some would abandon their current path so as to take up goat herding.

And my comment about swaying incompetent atheists was just thrown in for good humor, as you seem to realize. After all, incompetent atheists, were they to jump ship, would just make incompetent believers. No, you also want the competent ones. Trouble is, the competent atheists are pretty set in their ways. But as regards the loaded language, I'll try not to be overly sensitive, mistaking every red cloth as a flag waved to goad the bull, whereas perhaps all you meant to do was mop your brow with your handkerchief.

I'll admit my illustration of the parent doesn't parallel the situation in every respect, but that's hard to do with a really grand situation. For example, while you can no doubt come up with illustrations paralleling aspects of relativity, try coming up with one that parallels the entire concept. Not easy to do...the concept is too grand.

However, you start with a premise of God that I don't agree with. Namely, that if there is a God, it is somehow his obligation to make sure no harm comes to anybody, even as they insist upon living in a way that he knows will bring disaster, even as they persistently ignore all his direction, even as they taunt him as a make believe god of goat herders.....still, he is to make sure no harm befalls anybody!

Now you, as a caring parent, would not stand and watch your girls put their hands in a wood chipper because you got tired of telling them to stay away from it. Okay. Good. I hope not. However, what if your girls (and boys) came to number in the billions, what if they never got over their fixation with the wood chopper, what if they also came up with a hundred more ways just as self-destructive but more subtle in envisioning the ultimate consequence, what if whenever you tried to dissuade them (as adults) they never tired of pointing out what a restrictive asshole you were....you see, if you can tweak the parent illustration your way, I can tweak it mine as well.

Moreover, what if you KNEW that by living as you've outlined for them their lives would be 100 fold happier and longer and free of harm to neighbor and to the planet. Might you at some point want to set the stage so that your kids DO want to live successfully, rather than, for all eternity, consign yourself to plugging your fingers in the dykes they've ruined so that their self-centered conduct doesn't result in its otherwise inevitable harm to self and others?

Now....here the illustration breaks down a bit....don't bother to point it out...I know it. For you, although the parent, do not know your girls better than they do themselves. While they are yet children, you have experience and insight to guide them and even pull rank as needed, but they eventually catch up with you. And as regards knowing themselves, they surpass you. Not so with God and the humans he has created. I mean, surely you'll grant me the concession that if there is a god, he would know his creation inside and out. That follows far more logically than does your premise that god ought to be perpetual janitor. Ford, for example, knows their product inside out. If I need maintenance direction, I'll ask them before I ask you. But I won't expect them to be responsible if I drive my car with molasses for oil, with stale bagels for tires, or with disregard for principles of safe driving.

At any rate, thank you for taking the trouble to write, and for the gracious tone of your second comment, and for putting up with my meandering style of writing in main post. Really, I'm just indulging a hobby with this blog....I like to write....I'm not on a crusade. Nor am I one of those big dumb animals with horns that has to ram other animals with horns just to prove “who's da man?!” I don't live to argue, is what I'm saying. Sometimes people disagree. I can live with that. Still, if you'd like to respond, we can see where discussion will head. Sure, that would be okay.

Adam

Alright, I concede that I was being snarky for no other reason than the sake of being snarky in that first comment. It was uncalled for and I apologize.

I don't think that if there were a god that it would be responsible for preventing all harm from coming to everyone. Children need to learn from their mistakes and adult children for obvious reasons don't need to be chased around to ensure their safety.

And yes, I do agree that were I to have billions of children I would probably get tired of telling them not to put their hands in the woodchipper, maybe so much that I might be tempted to let a few suffer the consequences to teach a lesson. They may even dream up other ways to hurt themselves, but I would only be interested in intervening in activities that would actually result in harm to oneself or others, not harm that is perceived from individual lifestyle choices eg; homosexuality. I say this because some of the teachings of the bible have to do with stuff that really has nothing to do with anything but ourselves and because I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to when you say your god's teachings will ensure our success and cooperation with one another.

I certainly will grant you the concession that were a god to exist, it would know us inside and out, better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. I'll also grant you that a god may not want to play janitor for humans who live dangerous or unhealthy lives, that would be a pain. Like trying to save lemmings from the proverbial cliff, how annoying.

But I'm just a man, limited in my capacity to do... well anything really. Just like any human, I can only be so good at any one thing, only do so many things at a time and only be in one place at any given moment. However, were I an all knowing, all seeing and all powerful being, an omnipotent presence throughout the entire universe and indeed time itself (mwahaha!), well I could do just about everything, all the time, couldn't I? And with such immense power and control, what's the trouble for me to look out for a few billion of my kids? And hey, sure, as I said earlier why bother looking out for the ones who live dangerously? They want to drive too fast around corners, let 'em. Want to drink too much? Go for it. But if I'm so damn powerful, why can't I help the children being victimized by pedophiles, the women being subjugated by evil greedy men, the innocent being slaughtered by genocidal madmen? How is that a bother to a being that can create entire universes? The effort involved would be less than swatting a fly. Barring actually acting to stop these horrible events (because of that whole free will argument), could a god not at the very least tap in to the collective consciousness of humanity and say, "Hey guys, I'm here, it's okay."? Sometimes a kid just needs a hug, or a mindhug in the case of entities lacking any physical qualities.

Also, I'd like to point out that I mistakenly responded to this blog entry when I had meant to comment on the one you had revised for Moristotle, it being aimed at atheists and all.

You don't live to argue, that's cool, me neither. I don't want to go around bothering anyone, if you want me to bugger off at any point say the word. I just thought that since you had written a post to atheists that was a bit of an invitation to repsond. Again, I apologize for the initial snarkiness, there was no need.

tom sheepandgoats

No, Adam, I don't want you to bugger off. That was just a cautionary disclaimer, lest I get stuck in endless conversation with an ideological crank....we all know them when we see them. You are not that type at all, and I thank you for taking the time to comment. (twice)

I'll have to ponder phrasing a decent response, and I have other things on my plate. So please be patient if a few days go by before I answer.

tom sheepandgoats

As I look over your well-worded reply and my original post, (the one for atheists) I get the feeling that we are largely talking past each other, and that the points you bring out are addressed in that post, (perhaps with insufficient tact or clarity) so that all that remains is to match up corresponding statements. I wrote in that post that humans don't really want to eliminate injustice, but only the symptoms of injustice. Are you not essentially agreeing with that when you call for madmen or pedophiles to be curbed, but not the conditions that inevitably produce them? Perhaps any subsequent answer should be on that post, since it is more relevant, and it's where you meant to comment in the first place.

There may be additional premises on which we disagree. Do you think that human society is basically capable and just, so that removing the occasional madman, pedophile, or evil greedy person who pop up as inexplicable aberrations is all that is necessary to ensure overall happiness? We don't. Rather, we think that humans are incapable of governing themselves, partly due to a tendency toward greed and selfishness, but partly due to an inability to both know ourselves and see the entire picture. We think recorded history bears out this view.

You would like it if God would tap into the collective consciousness of humanity and say "Hey guys, I'm here, it's okay." We maintain he has largely done that. Trouble is, I suspect your next statement might be: “thanks for the reassurance, God. We'll take it from here.” Whereas what God actually says is "Hey guys, I'm here, it's okay. Now here's how to go about things since I didn't create you with the ability to self-rule”

Any tapping into human collective consciousness must be done gingerly, lest it result in a Landru state, which nobody would like. And as you point out, it would mess with the free will that makes life worth living. After all, how meaningful is someone's love if you know they are programmed so that they cannot respond any other way? But any collective consciousness implantation less subtle than Landru is roundly dismissed by those who don't like its leadings. Say some individual has a revelation and they're sure of this or that “in their heart.” All well and good, except you don't feel such a revelation in your heart, so you dismiss the other as some deluded nut....or acknowledge whatever he has may 'work for him,' but not for you. That 's why God doesn't work along those lines (though most of religion operates as though he does). A 'holy book' is actually a pretty good way for God to communicate with humanity, because it offers a way of getting to the bottom of things. Did God say such and such, or didn't he?

I understand the urge to dismiss any holy book as irrelevant by reason of it's age. From a certain vantage point, that does make intuitive sense. But, in my view, you shoot yourself in the foot if you absolutely dismiss it. Better to view it with skepticism. After all, mathematicians are willing to assume a given argument is true, just so as to see where it leads, and the discovery of where it leads verifies or debunks their initial assumption. They don't hamstring themselves at the outset by being unwilling to consider uncomfortable thoughts.

If you comment, it might be better to focus only on a paragraph or two, not on everything. It will keep any discussion less encumbered. We can always go back to consider points left behind. I'd prefer the first paragraphs rather than the latter. The latter represents well-trodden ground, but the former represents points often overlooked. But as you choose. I'll respond to either.

Adam

So, I wanted to write a really good reply to your last comment since I thought it was pretty well written. If I could I'd high five you for the Star Trek reference as well, which I had to look up. Nice one :)

In order to write a good reply I watched a ton of videos and read a couple books and finally, to address your point about not dismissing the bible out of hand, I actually read it. After having read the bible I'm calling it quits on debating anyone about religion. I'm not saying this to be insulting but if people are willing to believe what is written in that book and accept it as the only true explanation as to where we, and everything else, came from then they can have it. I think there are some good lessons that can be taken from the bible, but that does not even come close to outweighing all the terrible things the bible teaches. It's historically and scientifically inaccurate and in places it's downright stupid.

You seem like a good guy to me Tom, so stay cool man. I may disagree with your world view but I wish you the best this world has to offer. I hope your days are long and filled with contentment, have a good one.

tom sheepandgoats

To whatever extent I am 'good' and 'cool,' it is because of my beliefs, not in spite of them. I've found adhering to the Bible pattern to be liberating, enabling one to think very bold thoughts. Somewhat akin to how one can do brilliant moves on the chessboard, but not until one agrees to respect the rules of the game. So life has 'rules' too, but most of them go against the way we're indoctrinated to think from youth up, so they are unknown and ignored, notwithstanding the fact that they make for a failed world.

Did you really read the entire Bible as a prelude to your reply? It's not breezy writing, is it? And what I say next may strike you as a shameless plug for one faith, but.....well, I didn't become one of Jehovah's Witnesses because I think Catholics or Mormons or Evangelicals are correct. Most church teachings are not found in the Bible, such as the notion that we all have immortal souls. It is the conscious or unconscious attempt to read them in which causes people to give up in disgust or conclude it's contents can only be understood 'by faith.' To my mind, only JWs avoided such pitfalls, and only they have put the Bible together in a way that makes sense. Not to mention that only they go to significant personal and organizational costs to present the Bible's message to individuals.

One might think it odd that studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses could add much to just plain reading the book through, but in fact, most items with any complexity require some guidance to understand. A bit like when Pop bought a computer, he read the manual that came with it, figuring he could thereby come to understand it. But it turns out computer operation is not best understood that way.

Is the Bible truly unscientific, historically incorrect, 'stupid?' One might think so at first glance, I suppose. I did. But the things it promises sounded so good and so unique that I hung around to see if there was anything to it. When I first came across Jehovah's Witnesses in my early twenties, I was blown away to find people who seriously believed in Adam and Eve. They did not look especially stupid, yet all my life I'd been schooled that only the dumbest of the rednecks thought that part not make-believe. A Witness loaned me a book on the subject, now long out of print. I didn't like it. I thought it was poorly written and took some cheap shots. I decided to put the whole matter on the shelf, since everything else I was learning made so much sense. In time, I did resolve it, but it took awhile. Other aspects had to fall in place first.

Yes, the Bible teaches things, but be careful not to read teachings where there are none. Much of the Bible, you've discovered, is history. As in real history, it's perfectly possible for the 'good guys' to do bad things and the 'bad guys' to do good things. Unless you see a “I approve of this action” endorsement following some seeming misdeed, be cautious in concluding what the Bible is teaching.

Here's a couple of posts I wrote about Landru:

http://tinyurl.com/d9bamva
http://tinyurl.com/7hapoe9

(It's a major wake-up call for an aging guy when he throws in a universally known reference only to find that to a younger generation, it is not universally known) Time moves on.

Here's a couple of posts about Bible study. I even thought (briefly) that it might be good to conduct one on-line, on the blogosphere. To my knowledge it's never been done before:

http://tinyurl.com/86dwqj
http://tinyurl.com/7v4dkcj

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